Rome’s Implicit Rejection of Scripture’s Absolute Authority

The Roman Catholic Church holds itself up as the official interpreter of scripture.

But to claim such is for the Roman Catholic Church to assert itself into a position of standing over scripture. No longer would God and his Word serve as a supreme authority. Final appeal would not be made to the scripture itself, but to Rome and it’s interpretation of it.

In such a model, the Roman Catholic Church would, in essence, serve as the highest authority. But to make something other than God the highest authority is functionally to say that something has more authority than God himself, which is blasphemyFor instance, what happens when scripture and Rome’s sacred tradition contradict? For example, consider the opposing teachings on justification:

The Roman Catholic Church on Justification (Council of Trent):

If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification … let him be accursed [damned].

If any one shall say that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in the divine mercy pardoning sins for Christ’s sake [merely trusting and leaning on Christ for justification, and not our own merit] … let him be accursed.

Scripture on Justification (Paul: Romans and Galatians):

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20)

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law [i.e., faith alone]. (Romans 3:28)

[Y]et we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16)

At this point, the claim of having two absolutely true and equally trustworthy authorities (scripture & tradition) becomes impossible. Either the tradition is right, or scripture is right. They both can’t be right, because the tradition clearly contradicts the scripture.

If you claim that the tradition is right, you — by necessary consequence — have to deny the scripture isn’t… or at least that it doesn’t mean what it plainly seems to say. You are left in the position of saying that what scripture plainly says is not true — because, well, the tradition says otherwise.

Let’s put it plainly: In order to believe, as the tradition says, that “Justification is in part by our works,” you have to deny what the scripture clearly teaches: “That justification is in no part by our works, but solely by faith in Christ.”

Rome would respond, “But we don’t see a contradiction between the tradition and scripture. The only reason you see a contradiction, is, well, because of you aren’t interpreting the scriptures properly. … How do you know you’re interpreting the passage properly? You see, you need the Roman Catholic Church as that authoritative interpreter.”

As such, in Rome’s view, there can never be a conflict between scripture and the church’s teaching, because the church always has the final word on what those scriptures mean.

But don’t you see? At this point, the Roman Catholic claim of having two equal authorities is shown to be bogus. The scripture is removed from its placed of having any sort of actual, ultimate authority, because the Roman Catholic Church stands over it. It’s not the scriptures that have the authority; it’s the scriptures as interpreted and mediated to us by Roman Catholic Church that has authority. In other words, it’s Rome’s interpretation (it’s tradition) that has the actual authority.

It’s not very complicated logic to see that when two things contradict, only one of them can be right. To adhere to tradition or teaching, despite the fact that it contradicts the Bible, is to make that thing an authority above the Bible. On the contrary, when scripture and tradition clearly contradict, we must go with scripture.

As Jesus rebuked the Pharisees in Matthew 15,

[Y]ou break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition… [v.3].

For the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God [v.6].

God’s Word is supreme. It is not to be overwritten by human tradition. But how has Rome done this?teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Elevating human teaching to the same level as God’s Word.

[T]eaching as doctrines the commandments of men [v.9].

Elevating human teaching to the same level as God’s Word.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel [a different teaching on how we are saved]— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we [the apostles] or an angel from heaven [let alone the Roman Catholic Church] should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9)

We must follow Paul’s instructions here. If anyone teaches a different gospel, even the Roman Catholic Church, we will hold to the gospel of the scriptures.

#500Reformation #SolaScriptura